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Same sex marriage and equal rights

The Story of Same-Sex Marriage and Equal Rights in the UK

H.Samuel is built on love in all of its forms, and we believe in everybody’s right to love who they want. Learn more about the LGBT+ story, the difference between a civil partnership and marriage, and some of today's traditions and trends of same sex marriage.

29 September 2020 EDITOR - H. SAMUEL

With the UK now considered to be one of the leaders in equal rights for the LGBT+ community, it’s hard to comprehend that in such recent history, people faced such a different future. Here we’ll take a look at the LGBT+ story from 1967 until today, what the difference is between a civil partnership and marriage, where gay marriage is legal, and some of the traditions and trends of same sex marriage in the 2020’s.

Timeline of LGBT+ history

Before 1967: Although it’s hard to believe, historically, being gay was treated as an illness, with many people being forced to hide their true identity and feelings from friends, colleagues and even loved ones out of fear of being harassed, imprisoned, discriminated against or subjected to violence. As recently as 1835, men were being executed for having same-sex relationships.

1967: The first big breakthrough for equal rights took place in 1967 when same-sex acts between two consenting men over 21 were decriminalised in England and Wales, as long as they were carried out in private.

1972: Britain’s first ever Pride festival took place on July 1st in London, and over 2,000 people attended. Today, events take place all over the world, and over one million people celebrate Pride every year in London alone.

1973: Being attracted to someone of the same sex was declassified as a mental illness in the UK. However, the World Health Organisation didn’t follow suit until 1992, with many people believing that being gay could be ‘cured’ and was, therefore, an illness.

1980: Same-sex acts for people over 21 were decriminalised in Scotland.

1982: Same-sex acts for people over 21 were decriminalised in Northern Ireland.

1988: UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, introduced Section 28. The Act stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". After years of small but positive steps forward, this Act understandably caused an outcry.

2000: Gay and bisexual people were allowed to join the armed forces.

2001: The age of consent for same-sex relations was lowered to 16, making it the same age of consent for everyone, regardless of sexuality.

2002: Couples in same-sex relationships are given equal rights when it comes to adoption

2003: Section 28 and the ban on teaching about the acceptability of homosexuality in schools is overturned in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was previously overturned in Scotland in 2000. The Employment Equality Regulations also became law in the UK in 2003, which made it illegal to discriminate against gay, lesbian or bi people in the workplace.

2004: The Civil Partnership Act was passed by the Labour government, allowing civil partnerships, but not marriage, between same-sex couples. This was the first time same-sex couples could legally recognise their relationships in the UK. 2004 also saw the Gender Recognition Act passed, which allowed trans people to acquire a new birth certificate and have legal recognition of their gender identity.

2006: The Equality Act makes it illegal to refuse LGBT+ people goods or services on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

2012: As part of the Protection of Freedoms Act, people could apply to have historical convictions for consensual sex between men removed from criminal records.

2013: Parliament passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in July 2013, allowing equal marriage for all couples in England and Wales. The Act would allow couples to marry in civil ceremonies (weddings without any religious context) and religious marriages if the religious organisation had opted in. It also allowed couples to convert their civil partnership to marriage.

2014: The Same Sex Marriage Act came into action at midnight on March 29th 2014, with the first couples getting married at one minute past midnight. Later in 2014, the Scottish government passed legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry, with the first couples saying their vows on Hogmanay.

2015: Ireland voted by a huge majority to legalise same sex marriage, becoming the first country to do so by a referendum.

2020: Northern Ireland legalised same-sex marriage in early 2020, with the first weddings taking place from February 11th.

What does LGBT+ mean?

LGBT+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The + is an inclusive symbol to show support for people of all identities.

What is same-sex marriage, and what is the difference between a civil partnership and marriage?

Same-sex marriage is when two people of the same gender enter into a marriage. Civil partnerships and marriage are both legally recognised relationships between two people, and they share many of the same benefits and rights. However, there are a few notable differences. Firstly, marriage is formed by vows carried out in a religious or civil (non-religious) ceremony. Whereas a civil partnership is formed by signing the civil partnership document, and no words are legally required to be spoken. However, many couples do choose to say vows to one another. Secondly, marriages are ended by divorce, whereas a civil partnership is ended by dissolution. As well as the obvious romantic element of a same-sex marriage or civil partnership, both also offer legal and financial protection.

Where is gay marriage legal?

The UK is considered as one of the most pro LGBT+ places worldwide, hosting the most annual Pride events and proudly supporting a vibrant, diverse community. Therefore, it was surprising that passing equal marriage laws look longer than in some other progressive countries. Thankfully, gay couples can now legally recognise their love through marriage in the whole of the UK, as well as many other countries, including the Netherlands, Canada, Spain, Belgium, France, USA and South Africa. Worldwide, LGBT+ movements are seeing increased support, with many people embracing and celebrating diversity and although there is still a long way to go, many governments continue to shift towards equal rights for all couples.

Gay Marriage in the 2020’s – Traditions and Trends

Gay couples can now, finally, marry anywhere in the UK, and what a celebration it’s been! In order to make their big day truly representative of their love, many couples are choosing to put a personal, modern twist on the more some of the age-old wedding traditions. For example, gender roles are being ditched, couples are splitting the bill and sharing stag or hen do’s, many spend the night before the wedding together, and some are even shopping for their wedding outfits as a couple. The result? A beautiful, personal and fun-filled celebration. For a more detailed look at some of the same-sex proposal and wedding traditions we love, see our blog ‘Love is love – the new traditions of same-sex proposals and marriage.’

From engagement rings to wedding jewellery and christening presents to milestone anniversary gifts, at H.Samuel we feel so lucky to play a part in people’s big expressions of love. So if you’re looking for the perfect piece for a loved one, thinking about popping the question, or wanting to treat yourself, shop our extensive collection online, or visit us in-store where one of our friendly team will help you find the ideal item to suit your taste and budget.